Friday, May 23, 2014

Living Water

I currently live in southeast Texas with my parents while I'm preparing for the next stage of my life. Southeast Texas is infamously flat. There's a saying 'round here that if you stand on one tuna can you can see halfway around the world. If you stand on two tuna cans you can see the back of your head.

Living in hurricane country and living on such flat land leads to issues of flooding. To prevent neighborhoods from being swallowed up by water, bayous are constructed throughout communities to allow water to drain to the ocean. The bayous become a beautiful and safe habitat for the many animals that call them home including birds, turtles, and even alligators.

A couple weeks ago my mother came home from walking our dogs and she asked me to come help her. A turtle had lost its way and wondered away from the bayou. It was on the sidewalk and not sure where to go.

I put trash bags over my hands to use as gloves and followed my mother out the door.

By the time we reached the turtle, he had pressed onward and was even further in the wrong direction away from the bayou. As I approached him, he fled into his shell and started urinating everywhere because he was so scared.

I picked him up in my hands and carried him down the street, down the embankment of the bayou, and then set him in the water.

The next day my mother saw the turtle swimming around happily in the water - back to where he was supposed to be.

Just as that turtle needed to live in water in order to survive, we must partake of Christ's living water in order to survive.

Often we like the turtle wonder away from what we know and become lost. We continue to push forward thinking we are going in the right direction towards where we think we need to be, while in actuality we are removing ourselves even further from our source of living water.

As imperfect and mortal beings we think we know what we need to do and we will do it. We have our lives planned out exactly how we want and that's how it's going to be.

What we don't realize is the Master sees from beginning to end. He knows that we are lost even if we don't. He knows about the end of the sidewalk and dangers of crossing the street and getting run over by a car. He knows where the living water is and knows that we need it in order to live. He knows that we need to be picked up. He knows that it is scary and it will be hard, but it is necessary.

“Do you wish to partake of this living water [spoken of in John 4:14] and experience that divine well springing up within you to everlasting life?

“Then be not afraid. Believe with all your hearts. Develop an unshakable faith in the Son of God. Let your hearts reach out in earnest prayer. Fill your minds with knowledge of Him. Forsake your weaknesses. Walk in holiness and harmony with the commandments.

“Drink deeply of the living waters of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin (1917–2008) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “The Abundant Life,” Liahona and Ensign, May 2006, 100.

Motivational speaker Meg Johnson shares her experience with being led by Heavenly Father to where she needed to be:

"Before I was paralyzed and before lots of stuff happened... I've been married for three years, it will be three years in February. Before I got married and before I was paralyzed and before I graduated college, I was an intern at Walt Disney World in Florida. I was a Space Ranger. I saluted children and I let them on rides... it was a very glorified Lagoon job. And I got college credit. It is the most ingenuis business practice ever. That's how Disney World keeps all their happy employees happy, cause nobody makes it out of Disney World making any money. You just have all these college credits and things under your belt and Disney World is like 'hehe sucker.' But it is so exciting!

"Most people down there are on an internship, they're on the college program is what they call it. And that's what I was doing. And it was exciting! And while I was there I had a really wonderful romantic and magical romance with a roller-blading custodian. And he was so cute and awesome and he wanted to date me! He wanted to marry me and I wanted to marry him oh my gosh! But Heavenly Father was saying no. I mean this kid had proposed in front of the temple! He was good! And cute! But Heavenly Father was saying "No Meg, don't marry him, this is not for you." But I couldn't see any reason for that at all! I mean at all! 

"So I just kept the ring and we stayed engaged and I was like 'Oh my gosh! Why is Heavenly Father saying no? Doesn't he know? Heavenly Father do you see I wanna marry him! Him! Are you seeing him? Do you see how cute he is? How awesome? He's a roller-blading custodian!'

"But Heavenly Father was saying no and so my internship was ending and so was his. I was gonna go back home to Utah and he was gonna go back home to Massachusetts, but I didn't want to break up with him and so I changed my prayer from 'Should I marry him?' to 'Should I move to Massachusetts when my internship is over?' See I'm tricky, I'm going to trick Heavenly Father. I was hoping that I could move there and get and apartment and get a job, go to school, he and I could still continue to date and then get married later. That was my plan, we would get married later.

"So I started to pray 'Heavenly Father, (you know how we talk sweetly when we want something?) when my internship ends in a couple of weeks should I move to Massachusetts? Yes yes yes! Wink wink. Or should I move back home to Utah?'

"And one day I was praying for the same thing at an outside picnic table and I had the scriptures laid open on the picnic table in front of me. I folded my arms and bowed my head and put on my Bambi eyes and my sweet voice 'Heavenly Father, when my internship ends should I move to Massachusetts? Or should I move back home to Utah?'

"And I'm not even kidding, while I was praying a big wind came and it fluttered my scripture pages. And I opened my eyes and I was like 'Ahhh!!! That was so a celestial breeze!' and I just knew that my answer was gonna be right there on those pages because my scriptures had opened in between two bookmarks. You know how its easy to open up to a bookmark? But less easy to open up inbetween  two bookmarks? Yeah! Oh yeah!

"And I looked down into my scriptures and it had opened to Isaiah. And I looked down and this is what I read: 'And every man turned to his own people and flee everyone into his own land.' 

"But that wasn't the answer I wanted! So like a foolish child I started to talk myself out of it. I was like 'Well it's not really a celestial breeze. More like a telestial breeze! And this is in Isaiah! Who even knows what Isaiah is talking about? Nobody! That's who!'

"And so I flipped my Book of Mormon open and I flipped my Bible closed. I flipped my BOOK OF MORMON, BOOK OF MORMON where REAL answers come from. And I go to my bookmark where I'm reading and this is what I read: 'And every man turned to his own people and flee everyone into his own land.'

"And so I went back home to Utah and I didn't marry that guy. And I am so glad. I am so glad that Heavenly Father knew that I didn't want to marry him even though I didn't know that at the time.

"When I was engaged to my husband almost three years ago, it was just a few days before we were married and ever since I've been paralyzed, I started marking up my scripture pages with a big fat giant lime green Crayola marker. And that's how I was marking up my scripture pages. And I was reading my scriptures on my bed and I flipped open my scriptures and I saw these big giant lime green markings on the scripture page and I immediately had a flashback to a dream I had while I was engaged in Florida.

"In this dream I had opened up my scriptures and I had seen these big lime green markings on my pages. And I had looked up above my scriptures and I saw two guys standing in the air. And one was the boy in Florida that I was engaged to and was going to marry and I was engaged to him at this time. But then I saw somebody right next to him and I didn't recognize him but I really wanted to marry him. But I was marrying him (the guy from Florida). And when I had the flashback to that dream just a few days before I was married, I opened up my scriptures and I saw those green markings and I looked up and saw those same two guys standing in the air. And one was my ex-fiance from Florida and the other was my husband.

"Heavenly Father knows what we want. And he knows what will make us the most happy. And so when he tells us no, it's not because he's trying to be mean or because he's always trying to test our faith. He's trying to help us get the most we can out of this life. So that we can accomplish our purposes in this life. And we need to be obedient when he says no. 

"Breaking off the first engagement that I had was probably the hardest thing that I've ever done in my life. Harder than being paralyzed, harder than relearning how to breathe, harder than relearning how to drive, harder than social situations in a wheelchair. It was the hardest thing because I could see no reason for it. I could see no reason why I should break up with him. All I knew is that Heavenly Father wanted me to and that was it. And it was an awkward hard long break up that I am so glad that I went through, and I would do it again to marry my husband. I love him so much."

Living water is a symbol of the Lord Jesus Christ and his teachings. As water is essential to sustain physical life, the Savior and his teachings (living water) are essential for eternal life.

Heavenly Father's ways are not our own. I can't even begin to tell you how hard life can be. I don't know why things we plan don't work out, or why everything seems to go wrong that can go wrong. 

But I do know there is purpose in all things. I know that Heavenly Father wants us all to be happy. We must go through hard things to get to the happiness.

"With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation." (Isaiah 12:3)


Wednesday, May 7, 2014


When we slip and fall, we can become injured. Our wound if left open and untreated can lead to a nasty infection. The infection can spread and turn a minor injury to a life threatening situation. It becomes necessary to reopen an infected wound, then sanitize and clean it. One must wrap it properly and wait for it to heal. New skin will grow and the wound will be closed though a scar may remain as a reminder of what happened.

In Alma 58, Helaman and his small band of men must obtain the city of Manti from the Lamanites. The problem they encounter is that their small band of men does not have the size or strength to take the city or fight off the thousands of Lamanites who occupy it. If Helaman and his men had a full frontal confrontation with them, they would all be utterly destroyed.

It became "expedient" for Heleman and his men to "wait," so that they could receive strength and provisions from Zarahemla. They waited and waited outside the city of Manti for "the space of many months even until they were about to perish for want of food."

Heleman writes that he did not know why they were to wait, he just knows that they were instructed to by God and they obeyed because they feared for their destruction. In the interim, the Nephites "did pour our our souls in prayer to God," that he would give them strength and deliver them from the Lamanites.

The Lord answered their prayers, though it is important to note he answered them in his own timing. He required them to wait and endure before he responded.

“The Lord put inside these men the will and the power to do what they desired- to begin with a strong resolve and then to see it through. After their prayer was answered, the Nephites went on to secure their liberty.” (Gene R. Cook, Receiving Answers to Our Prayers, 156).

Helaman and his men split into three forces, drawing out the entire army of the Lamanites occupying Manti save for a few guards. While the Lamanites rested in their pursuit of the Nephites, Helaman back tracked and pushed his men to march through the night, that they might take the city by "another way."

Helaman's men entered the mostly empty city of Manti. The guards were quickly disarmed and by "stratagem" the city of Manti was taken without bloodshed. 

When I was younger and I would listen to my mom read the war chapters of the Book of Mormon, I never really understood why they were included as scriptures. The scriptures are supposed be spiritual and boring right?

What I've come to understand many years later is the importance of chapters such as Alma 58. Helaman was fighting a physical war with his men against the Lamanites, while we are all fighting a spiritual warfare against Satan today.

At times because of our choices in life, we must wait and take another way than originally planned. It can be devastating, frustrating, and painful. Sincere prayer, repentance, and a building up of strength are required in our return to be where we need to be. We must listen so that we do not go or do anything before we are ready and end up destroyed.

From April to June 1828, Martin Harris acted as Joseph Smith's scribe as the Prophet dictated the manuscript using the Urim and Thummim. By the middle of June, Joseph had dictated about 116 manuscript pages of text.

Martin Harris continued to have doubts about the authenticity of the manuscript, and he "could not forget his wife's skepticism or the hostile queries of Palmyra's tavern crowd." Joseph's mother, Lucy, "said that Martin asked Joseph for a look at the plates, for 'a further witness of their actual existence and that he might be better able to give a reason for the hope that was within him.' When that request was denied, he asked about the manuscript. Could he at least take it home to reassure his wife?” After denying his request twice, Joseph, with a great deal of uneasiness, said that the Lord had given permission, and he allowed Martin to take the manuscript pages back to Palmyra on condition that he show them to only five named family members. He even made Martin bind himself in a solemn oath.

When Martin returned home, he showed the manuscript to his wife, who allowed him to lock them in her bureau. Martin then showed the pages not only to the named relatives but "to any friend who came along." The manuscript then disappeared.

Shortly after Martin left Harmony, Emma Smith gave birth to Joseph's firstborn son, who was "very much deformed" and died less than a day after delivery. Emma nearly died herself, and Joseph tended her for two weeks. As she slowly gained strength, Joseph left her in the care of her mother and went back to Palmyra in search of Martin and the manuscript.

The following day Martin was dragged into the Smith family home in distress and without the pages. Joseph urged Martin to search his house again, but Martin told him he had already ripped open beds and pillows. Joseph moaned, "Oh, my God!… All is lost! All is lost! What shall I do? I have sinned—it is I who tempted the wrath of God".

After returning to Harmony without Martin, Joseph dictated to Emma his first written revelation, which both rebuked him and denounced Martin Harris as "a wicked man." Nevertheless, the revelation assured Joseph that if he was penitent, the interpreters would be returned to him during his annual visit with Moroni on September 22, 1828, and he would regain his ability to translate.

Between the loss of the pages during the summer of 1828 and the rapid completion of the Book of Mormon in the spring of 1829, there was a period of quiescence as the prophet waited "for help or direction." In April 1829 Joseph was joined by Oliver Cowdery as a replacement scribe for Martin Harris.  The pace of the transcription increased dramatically so that within two months nearly the entire remainder of the manuscript of the Book of Mormon was completed.

Joseph did not retranslate the material that Martin Harris had lost because he said that if he did, evil men would alter the manuscript in an effort to discredit him. Instead Joseph had been divinely ordered to replace the lost material with Nephi's account of the same events. When Joseph reached the end of the book, he was told that God had foreseen the loss of the early manuscript and had prepared the same history in an abridged format that emphasized religious history, the "Small Plates of Nephi."

A comforting thought in this sea of despair is that our Savior is well aware of the end from the beginning. He will always provide another way. He did with the lost 116 pages of the Book of Mormon. He will with us when we fall and need to be picked back up.

My life has been planned out for me perfectly for the last three years. Due to my own agency and the need for justice and mercy, I've become injured and required to wait while I heal. I'm not going to be able to do things as I've planned. I know the Lord will provide another way, given I pay attention this time.

I'm having the hardest time forgiving myself. The ironic thing: I am forgiven, I know that. But I don't see how I can truly be forgiven or be washed away of things I've done. If I let myself dwell in my thoughts, they perpetuate and I focus on how how much I hate myself or how stupid I am. I don't see how anyone could love or want anything to do with me.

Trying to truly believe and apply the following:

It was unthinkable, impossible, unfathomable, unprecedented. A single act that changed history, possibility, destiny. He was a carpenter, a teacher, an outcast, a leader. Yet he did what no carpenter, teacher, outcast, leader had ever done. Like all who preceded him, he lived, and he died. But unlike all who preceded him, he rose from the dead, he lived again. He lives and because he lives, you, you, and you, and she, and he, and they, and we all will live again. Because of him death has no sting, the grave no victory. We can start again, and again, and again. Because of him, guilt becomes peace, regret becomes relief, despair becomes hope. Because of him, we have second chances, clean slates, new beginnings. There is no such thing as the end because of him.